Women Having Abortions Up Premature Birth Risk 34% Next Time

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 6, 2011   |   10:29AM   |   London, England

A new study conducted in the United Kingdom finds women who have abortions are 34 percent more likely to deliver a baby prematurely when they become pregnant the next time and to suffer from other pregnancy complications.

Sohinee Bhattacharya, who led the research at the University of Aberdeen, examined more than 1 million pregnancies in Scotland over 26 years and he found that women who have one abortion increase their risk of premature birth in a subsequent pregnancy 34 percent. Women who have a historic risk of giving birth prematurely up that risk another 73 percent when they have an abortion.

The risk is increased enough, because of the abortion, that 10 percent of all women who have an abortion will give birth prematurely in their subsequent pregnancy that they carry to term, the researchers found.

The results, first reported Tuesday in the London Times, show the risk of premature birth in a pregnancy following an abortion increases substantially when women have more than one abortion. For the hundreds of British women who have four abortions or more, 20 percent of all women seeing to give birth will deliver prematurely, and premature births lead to an increase in the risk of newborn children having physical or mental disabilities.

According to the Times, the study also found that, when it comes to premature birth, surgical abortions are more troublesome for women than abortions using the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug (which has killed dozens of women and injured more than 1,100 in the United States alone). The results indicate women having surgical abortions are 27 percent more likely to have give birth prematurely.

Because of the previous abortion, the study also found women, in a next pregnancy, suffer from higher risks of stillbirth and pre-eclampsia, the blood pressure disorder that can further increase the risk of premature birth and occasionally threaten the lives of mothers and children.

Bhattacharya told the Times that the risk of premature birth associated with an abortion is “something that should be brought to the notice of women.” She presented the results of the study with Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Stockholm, Sweden on Monday.

According to the newspaper the study involved Scottish women aged 15-55 who had two pregnancies between 1981 and 2007, with 171,208 women having a second pregnancy following an abortion, 458,337 who had a second pregnancy after giving birth, and 458,339 women pregnant for the first time.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the ProLife Alliance responded to the study, and told the newspaper, “This is the most compelling evidence to date of the health impact of abortion on future pregnancies. Whatever one’s position on the ethics of abortion, it is more than obvious that alerting patients to the very real and incremental risks of future miscarriage should now be an essential part of informed consent protocols.”

Peter Saunders, the head of the Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members, also commented on the results.

“There are actually at least 119 articles in the world literature already attesting to an association between abortion and premature birth, and very few indeed that contest the association (see below). So why is this new study a news story?” he says. “What makes it news is the fact that this is the first major British study on the subject – as it is virtually impossible to do research on the health consequences of abortion in this country because abortion authorization forms do not carry NHS patient numbers (a story in itself!)”

“I wonder how long it will be before the first mother with a prior abortion brings a case against a doctor or health authority for not being told that she was at increased risk of having a premature baby in a subsequent pregnancy. Especially if that baby suffers one of the more severe and expensive complications of prematurity,” he adds.

According to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “One of the most egregious educational omissions from current medical education/residency program, or just plain from the American medical literature in general, is the association of induced abortion with subsequent preterm birth. It is a kind of ‘denial by silence.”

“There are at least 119 articles in the world literature attesting to this association, and very few indeed that contest the association,” AAPLOG says of the abortion-premature birth link.

In a paper published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2009, a Canadian research team examined data from 37 studies and found that having a prior abortion increased the risk of subsequent preterm birth by 35 percent, while having more than one prior abortion increased the risk by 93 percent.

Another paper published in 2009 found that found that having a previous abortion raised a woman’s relative odds of having a subsequent birth at less than 32 weeks by 64 percent.

Further, as far back as 2006 the Institute of Medicine included “prior first trimester abortion” on a list of risk factors associated with premature birth. However, as Brent Rooney, Director of Research for the Reduce Preterm Birth Coalition, has pointed out, abortions continue to be performed despite the strong evidence of risks—and in the absence of any evidence showing the procedure to be harmless.